Nature Communications journal recently reported a major breakthrough by US scientists, who managed to implant fully functional 3D-printed ovaries in mice. This new development is set to offer new hope to women suffering from infertility.
The “ink” American experts used to print the prostheses was liquid gelatin. It was created from collagen, a material that exists in our skin, bones and muscles. Thanks to their web-like structure, the artificial ovaries were able to interact with other organs in the body to help trigger production of ova. They were also large enough to allow egg cell maturation and formation of blood vessels within them. This, in turn, made it possible for hormones to course through the body and jump-start lactation following delivery.
To the scientists’ delight, mice who received the 3D-printed ovaries went on to fall pregnant and give birth to healthy mouselings. At present, plans for next stage of animal testing include bigger mammals. Then (provided all goes well) they intend to move on to human trials.
3D Printed Ovaries – What Does it Mean for Humans?
The implications of this breakthrough cannot be underestimated. Every year, close to 25 thousand women of childbearing age are diagnosed with cancer in the UK alone. The life-saving treatments often result in loss of fertility. While some can undergo fertility preservation treatments and cryopreserve their eggs or embryos, certain malignancies (for example, breast or ovarian cancer) make the procedure nearly impossible. Furthermore, some women are unable to undergo the procedure due to relatively long stimulation protocols and the need to begin treatment immediately. Additionally, 3D-printed ovaries can also be beneficial for patients with conditions such as PCOS.
Lymphoma Chemotherapy and Fertility
Another recent study conducted at Edinburgh University discovered that ABVD protocol used to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma led to creation of new oocytes. Experts believe it can be used to “trick” ovaries into creating new eggs, which is something that does not happen naturally. Women are born with all the oocytes they will have during their lifetime. That number gradually decreases over time, dwindling completely around the age of 40-45.